Family, friends remember Twin Cities pastor Rev. Dennis Oglesby

A Black man closes his eyes and speaks intro a microphone
The Rev. Dennis Oglesby passed away on June 16, 2024. He was pastor at Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church.
Courtesy photo

When she was a student in the early ‘80s at Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss., Minneapolis-based actress Greta Oglesby was a singer. One day, she practiced a song accompanied by a pianist in a campus building.

Somewhere in the building a young man, also a student, heard her voice and was intrigued.  

The student was a singer too and found the room Oglesby was in and watched as she sang.

“He walked up and introduced himself and said, ‘Hi, my name is Dennis Oglesby,’” their daughter Meghann Oglesby recalled. He asked her to consider joining the college’s World Renowned A’Cappella Choir of which he was a member, she said.  

“That’s how they met and the rest is history,” Meghann Oglesby said.

Greta Oglesby joined the choir, they dated, the two graduated, he in ‘82, she in ‘83, and then married the following year. They became parents of two children and then he went on to get a master’s degree in divinity. Ministering in Chicago, Minneapolis, Chicago again, then St. Paul.

Rev. Dennis Oglesby, who led Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Paul, died suddenly on June 16 at age 64. He is survived by his wife Greta, his children Meghann and Chase and two grandchildren.

Meghann Oglesby — an employee of MPR News parent company American Public Media  — said she was blessed.

“My dad was my best friend and my biggest fan, and I cannot ever describe or express how painful his loss is,” Meghann Oglesby said. “But I am so grateful, and I am so blessed to have had a father like that."

A memorial service will be held Saturday at the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis at 1 p.m. A second service will be held at St. Mark United Methodist Church in Oglesby’s native Chicago, said Theresa Neal, a lay leader at Camphor. 

He would have celebrated his one-year anniversary at Camphor on July 1, Neal said.

“This came so suddenly … the church is grieving a loss of a great man and a great pastor, and a man of faith in God, who was our spiritual leader,” she said.

His death not only impacts the Camphor congregation, but also many churches throughout Minnesota, she added.

Pastor D, as he was affectionately known as at Camphor, had served in national positions throughout the United Methodist Church.

“I don't think Pastor D would ever want us to squander living and not move forward in life, because we are purpose driven,” Neal said.

He had previously lived in Evanston, Ill., leading Sherman United Methodist Church for three years. Before that, he was a pastor for two Methodist churches in Minneapolis: Park Avenue and Hennepin Avenue.

A girl and her father hold hands and walk together
Meghann Oglesby holds her father’s hand in a photo from 1988.
Courtesy photo

“This sense of loss like this void that, how will we fill that? And I think we will fill that by continuing the work that Dennis led and the strong belief that it was our Christian duty to make this a better world,” Neal said.

During his time with Camphor, one of the things he focused on investing in relationships, Neal said.

“That we can be members of a church and not know each other, and so it was important that he felt like we grow in relationship with each other,” she said. He wanted people to get to know each other.

He started up a family night and he was the chief chef. Oglesby loved to cook, and lasagna was one of his favorite dishes to cook.

“We just sat around and we talked, we played board games, we listened to good music and we learned a little bit about each other,” she said.

Oglesby also liked building partnerships outside the church’s walls. As a lover of music, he was organizing a music festival in July with Walker West Music Academy, Neal said.  

He also imbued his services with song.

“Music was always a love in my father's life,” Meghann Oglesby said, noting that he sang in childhood and college and continued to incorporate music into his ministry.

“One thing that my father was known for as a pastor was he would sing songs as an act of prayer in service in the United Methodist Church before delivering a sermon,” she said.

After years in the Twin Cities, Meghann Oglesby said her father would hold concerts in Minneapolis. He’d sing jazz, spirituals and gospel. “An evening with Dennis Oglesby,” she added.

Neal said he had “a beautiful voice.” Sometimes, the congregants had the chance to hear his wife Greta Oglesby sing as well.

Meghann Oglesby said he was a devoted father. When it was time for her senior prom at Park Central High School, her mother, now an actress, was on tour and out of town. 

Her father stepped in. Oglesby secured a personal shopper for his daughter. Made sure, she had her hair done up and her nails manicured. He also got her a snazzy car for prom night. 

And he wasn’t done, Meghann Oglesby said. Rev. Oglesby flew in her grandmother and other family friends to be with her on this occasion.  

“My dad went all out and did everything that he could to make sure that I had a wonderful prom experience.”